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330                 HISTORY OF PERSIA                CHAP.
put to death the few Persian nobles who had escaped the
previous massacres. He then occupied himself in con-
solidating his power, and constructed a strong fort in
Isfahan to serve both as a refuge and rallying-point for
the Afghans and their families, and also as a treasury.
The Victory of Ashraf over the Turks, A.H. 1138 (1726).
—The position of aflairs in Persia at this period was
interesting. Ashraf held Isfahan, Shiraz, and south-east
Persia generally, but can hardly be said to have ad-
ministered the country. His army received but few
recruits from Kandahar, which was governed by Husayn,
brother of Mahmud ; he was consequently restricted to
a defensive policy. Shah Tahmasp was in Mazanderan
and was still obliged to remain more or less a spectator of
events, although Fath Ali Khan, the Kajar Chief, had
thrown in his lot with him, and a force was being gradually
recruited. The Russian Government under Catharine
was determined to maintain its position in Persia, but
there was no thought of fulfilling the terms of the treaty
with Turkey. The Ottoman Government alone pursued
a forward policy.
Ashraf had sent an embassy to remonstrate at the action
of a Sunni power in co-operating with a Christian state to
attack a Sunni neighbour with the avowed purpose of
restoring the heretical Shia dynasty. In spite of the pro-
Afghan feeling aroused in Constantinople, the ambassador
of Ashraf, who took a very high tone, was dismissed, war
was declared, and a Turkish army, after seizing Maragha
and Kazvin, advanced on Isfahan. Ashraf, whose military
qualities were considerable, attacked and cut to pieces a
detached body of the Turks two thousand strong, and this
success * produced a considerable moral effect, besides
causing Ahmad Pasha, the Turkish general, to halt and
entrench his position.
In order to excite dissensions among the enemy, the
cunning Afghan despatched four venerable mullasy who
asked Ahmad Pasha why he was warring on Moslems
who were obeying the divine precepts of the law in sub-
verting the power of the heretical Shias. To this
awkward question a reply was given that he was acting by